Rudolph's Shiny New Year (And Existentialistic Crises)

I've never seen Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer. I'm not sure why. Maybe CBS traditionally scheduled it on Monday nights, and we only watched football on Monday nights in my family. Maybe my parents hated us. It's hard to say. I never felt like I was missing out on anything, though, and I don't really have any desire to rectify the situation. Besides that, we all know the story by now. But I bet you guys didn't know that there's another Rudolph-themed film. One I used to watch quite regularly. It's from 1976, and it's called Rudolph's Shiny New Year, and it's one of Red Skelton's very last performances. Despite the fact that it's a Rankin-Bass film, like the first one, when the movie does a flashback to explain Rudolph's tumultuous past, it does not use clips from the first one. In fact, the story is told with new animation to accompany the famous song. Due to that, there's actually no connection between the first movie and its apparent sequel.

Before I start discussing the movie itself, I want to give you a taste of its, well, insanity. This is a 20 second commercial for ABC's "newest" Holiday classic.

Note the inclusion of dinosaurs, a giant evil vulture, a giant whale, and for a split second, at the very end, Rudolph, a cave man, a knight, and Ben Franklin are climbing a mountain of solid ice. Believe it or not, the 20 second trailer barely even hints at the insanity present in this rather short film (it's only an hour long, of course). I think the summary provided by IMDB might help.

Father Time sends Santa a message telling him that the baby new year, Happy, is missing! And without the baby new year, it'll remain the old year forever. But it's foggy and snowing, so Rudolph's the only reindeer for the job. Rudolph learns that Eon (ugly buzzard) is also searching for Happy, so that eon life will never end. With the help of 1 Million B.C. and Sir 1023, and 1776, Rudolph searches through the islands of the Archipelago of Last Year and races against eon to ensure a Happy New Year.

1776 looks like Ben Franklin, of course. 1 Million B.C (OM) looks like a cave man, and Sir 1023 comes from a time when talking, sentient bears lived in quaint cottages. As demonstrated by this clip.

Now, the reason that Happy is missing is that he ran away. Because everybody laughs at his ears the same way that everybody laughs at Rudolph's nose. In fact, everybody in the film laughs at Happy, including Rudolph. Happy runs away each time he's mocked and humiliated, and it's difficult to blame the kid. The very first sound he heard was the sound of his nurse laughing at him. He probably doesn't even know what it's like to have a "normal" life. Rudolph ultimately chastises him for being a poor sport, explaining that people don't laugh at him because they want to hurt his feelings, it's just that he's funny looking. So get over it.

Meanwhile, the villain of the film is Eon, a giant, monster vulture. Eon terrorizes the Sands of Time, which is what you need to cross to get from Santa's North Pole to Father Time's North Pole. Yes, I realize that makes no sense. No, the movie doesn't even bother to try to make it make sense. Incidentally, Rudolph crosses the sands of time on the back of a talking camel. Why does the camel talk? Why can't Rudolph walk? Why can't Rudolph fly? Nobody knows. After they're attacked by Eon, the camel explains that Eon actually lives for an eon, but that he will turn to snow and ice at the beginning of a new year. The camel claims he terrorizes the Sands of Time, but we never see him do anything except scream and look menacing. Basically, we have a villain whose only motive throughout the film is that he doesn't want to die.

I actually have many issues with this movie, but what pushed me to actually write about it is the fact that the only sympathetic characters are the ones who are treated the worst. Happy is anything but, since cruel, cruel laughter him follows him wherever he goes, and when he makes it clear he doesn't appreciate that, Rudolph (aka, the King of the Freaks) tells him to get over it. Eon might have an eon to live, but that probably just gave him more time to realize he didn't want to die. Now, I'm not saying it's right to kidnap a baby and stop the natural progression of time, but as far as evil plans go, I think it's pretty mild. Eon, of course, can't be saved in the end. I think it casts quite a pall over the film. Especially since the moment Happy is crowned is the precise moment Eon dies, alone, on his island.

Objectively, the movie is very trippy. Rudolph, a cave man, a knight, and Ben Franklin need to rescue a baby from a vulture or else time will STOP forever. Rudolph behaves as though he's a bit touched in the head (he also forgets he can fly). They float from island to island on back of a whale called Big Ben, and Santa Claus saves the day (and all of time) in the end. Yet, strangely, the movie is actually not bad. It's certainly original, if nothing else. Eon is even a bit scary. I don't think there's a good lesson in the end, but the songs are well done and the whole thing is equal parts charming and horrifying--as most Rankin-Bass productions are. I actually would recommend this film to people over the holiday season. I think everybody needs to experience it at least once. It's currently available on Comcast onDemand and on youtube.


I find the message of this special bizarre. In most stories about someone being abused over being different, those who committed the abuse eventually see the error of their ways. In this one, the victim of the abuse is the one who needs to "lighten up." Apparently, the derisive laughter isn't wrong. It's Happy's hurt over being laughed at that's wrong.

Of course, when this one came out I think "ugly laws" were still on the books, so I guess it wasn't yet politically incorrect to publicly taunt those who are different.

Ah well. We'll always have Dumbo.

Zuul, that about sums up my response to the film. Since the message is very clearly that Happy is in the wrong, the climatic "battle" is even more bizarre to me. When Eon starts laughing at Happy for his ears, is he still a good guy? Or is a dick for laughing at a baby? The movie wants us to believe he's a dick (and thus be okay with it when he dies), but if he is a dick, then why does Rudolph and Ben Franklin get immunity? And if Eon is not being a dick by laughing, but instead demonstrating that he's been redeemed and he's like everybody else in the movie, then why didn't they find a way to save him in the end? I don't know, man.

Maybe it was a deliberate choice, to make an unconventional ending. I mean, typically an evil character is redeemed, or destroyed if irredeemable. That is true in most kid's stories, but especially the Christmas ones, a lot of which even lack bad guys.

I like the idea of Santa saving the day - it seems like every year he loses his sleigh/powers/memory and needs whatever unlikely group of characters to do his job for him. The guy only works one night a year, and his job can be done by people with no experience, training or instruction, yet he still screws up? That's not the Santa I know. (I'm looking at you, half-hour Christmas Madagascar special).

I am glad to say I haven't seen it for decades, but I thought that the end had some pablum about how Eon was laughing far, far too much to be able to freeze. Ever.

Quote Originally posted by OtakuLoki View post
I am glad to say I haven't seen it for decades, but I thought that the end had some pablum about how Eon was laughing far, far too much to be able to freeze. Ever.
That puts a slightly different twist to the film. I'm not sure if it makes it better or worse, though. And I fully admit by that point my attention was wandering. I could have been playing with the cat when they assured everybody that Eon wouldn't die.

I'm not sure it's better or worse, either. And I admit my two decade old memory shouldn't be taken as gospel truth. I was simply surprised to see how often you were commenting about gloating about Eon's demise, which I don't recall at all.

I had forgotten this one and most of its plot and I do not recall liking it at all. I don't think I would want to suffer through watching it again though. Fun summary though in the article. I am sure that was way better than the actual special.

this movie

I thought this movie was great to watch when I was younger. It was a huge part of my youth and I think society is just too politically correct now to handle anything unless it's on HBO or Showtime.